British comedian and writer wryly notes in the opening episode of his 2008 series Stephen Fry in America, that he was almost an American, which means he was almost a Steve. It was the realization, though, that if his father had accepted a stateside position he would have been raised American instead of British, that prompts Fry to create the six-episode travel show.
In the series, Fry visits all 50 states. Although I have watched other state-based shows, it is what Fry chooses to highlight that makes his series intriguing. Overall he avoids the touristy spots — and bypasses the obvious — focusing instead on obscure American history and sites that average viewers will not recognize.
Here are some examples:
- In the first episode Fry visits several New England states, and as one would expect, he visits Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont where creates his own ice cream flavor. But Fry also visits the stately Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire — site of the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference which launched the International Monetary Fund.
- In the second episode Fry visits Tennessee, but Nashville is not the focus. Instead it’s a Knoxville facility where people donate their corpses to science. The bodies are left outside and in containers so forensic investigators can better understand how the body decomposes.
- In the third episode Fry travels both on and along the Mississippi River. His trip starts in New Orleans where he broaches the obligatory subject of Mardi Gras and Voodoo before taking a ride with a black Iraqi War veteran who shows Fry the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The soldier explains, as he looks at the ruins of his high school, that he feels like he is back in Iraq because of the desolation, destruction and the escalation of force.
As Fry works his way east to west and north to south in his London Taxi Cab, he fills each episode with the unusual and enlightening. Sometimes, the enlightenment is about our country’s oddities — or our poor and desperate regions — and, other times, Fry playfully mocks our fears — including our need to forcefully guard our northern border that no one is clamoring to cross.
Along the way, he entertains a wide range of characters, including actor Morgan Freeman, Blues legend Buddy Guy and a myriad of unknown fellow Americans. As Fry waxes philosophical and humorous, those interested in American history, as seen through a ‘foreigner’s eye’, will find the show enjoyable and worthwhile.
It is currently available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Each episode is about an hour long.